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What Do Americans Crave at 35,000 Feet? A Look at the Most Popular Inflight Choices

Chips and water is the most popular combination in 22 states

by Fergus Cole

May 9, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Flying can be a daunting experience for some passengers as they travel through the skies at high altitudes. However, the moment the refreshment cart starts making its way down the aisle, it can provide a sense of relief and relaxation from the constant hum of the engine and the light turbulence.

But have you ever wondered what most Americans prefer to have on their flights? A recent study conducted by Upgraded Points revealed the most popular drink and snack choices among Americans while flying.

Water and Coke on Top

With the risk of dehydration higher when flying, it may be unsurprising that water is America’s most popular in-flight beverage, with 47 percent of passengers prefer this sensible refreshment in the air.

Photo: Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

The second most popular in-flight drink is a good-old can of Coca-Cola, with 43 percent of passengers preferring a bit of fizz. In fact, Coke beats water as the most popular choice overall in 13 states: Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Coca-Cola is also the most popular soda in all but two states: Georgia and Massachusetts, where ginger ale reigns.

Apple Juice Reigns

When it comes to fruit juices, apple juice is by far and away the most popular, with 20 percent of Americans choosing it as their in-flight drink of choice.

It’s also the most popular juice in all but five states: Mississippi, Missouri, and Virginia prefer orange juice, while cranberry juice is the go-to in Kentucky and New Hampshire.

Alcoholic Beverages? Vodka vs. Whiskey

Things are less clear-cut when it comes to alcoholic beverages, with no outright favorite emerging. Vodka and whiskey cocktails are the most popular alcoholic choice in 11 states each.

Photo: Southwest’s onboard beverage menu, 2022. Courtesy of MillieT / Southwest Airlines

Vodka cocktails are preferred by those in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, while passengers from Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia love a whiskey cocktail.

Regarding wine, white is the preferred alcoholic beverage in seven states—the same number as mimosa—while red is the most popular in just four.

The more obscure choices, a hard seltzer, and a Bloody Mary are the alcoholic drink of choice in just two states each: California and Tennessee, and Kansas and Utah, respectively.

Quintessential Chips

Finally, chips were the most popular in-flight snack, being the favorite in 28 states.

Pretzels, peanuts/nuts, and Biscoff cookies are the most popular in five states each, while trail mix is the favorite of just one state: Nebraska.

Photo: Courtesy of JetBlue

Regarding combinations, chips and water is the go-to order in 22 states, while the next favorite combination—chips and Coke—is the most common order in six.

According to the study, inflight refreshments are significant for American travelers. About 34 percent of respondents reported that they would be upset if they missed the refreshment cart. Additionally, 30 percent of passengers said they would be extremely relieved if their neighbor woke them up when the cart passed, while only 20 percent said they would be annoyed.

“Inflight refreshments are more than just a drink and a snack—they are a part of the travel experience that most passengers look forward to,” said Keri Stooksbury, editor-in-chief at Upgraded Points.

“Little indulgences can make a long flight significantly more enjoyable, so we thought looking at the regional trends that inform beverages and snack choices could be fun.”

Disclaimer: Due to insufficient respondents, Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming were excluded from the study.